These are hard times. Stories of pain, of loss and of struggle are recounted in every media. These personal challenges confront individuals and families around the world. For one woman, it’s the devastation of entering retirement with her life savings having been swallowed in the abyss of the Madoff scheme. For another, it’s enduring the helplessness of her husband’s workplace being downsized when they both counted on his income. For another woman it’s the decline of her real estate career and the challenge to reinvent herself while having no other fall-back.
Crisis management wisdom tells us that in times of cataclysm our first need is to find safety. With this one, however, that’s not so easy, mostly because so many have built their safety on shaky ground. They have accepted faulty assumptions:
· Faulty: A comfortable life will calm my fears.
· Faulty: Having more money will make me feel full and abundant.
· Faulty: Accomplishment and recognition will resolve my feelings of inadequacy.
Let’s look more closely at what challenges these faulty assumptions:
Courage: The gift Inside of Fear.
There will always be something to be afraid of—some more horrific than others. At the 2009 International Women of Courage Awards, extraordinary women from around the world were honored for their courage in the face of slavery and violations of basic human rights, and for their fight for freedom and justice in the face of oppression.
We are not going to just endure this time of economic crisis and social upheaval. This should be our time as women to bring about a great movement that evolves beyond the necessity of basic human rights for all.
Women can lead the way.
First, we can embody the courage needed to reinvent ourselves in the workplace. Our resilience and adaptability have been honed through years of fighting for equality and have brought us to see the truth of our greater selves. Now we shall lead by living from this place where heart and head work together.
Second, we can build on years of activism and be part of the shift away from a consumer driven value system to a more mature recognition of what is of lasting value. Just because we have been fighting for an equal place in a male dominated workforce doesn’t mean we have to devalue the wisdom that comes from the feminine perspective. It should be clear to the world right now that our workplaces need the wisdom heart of women with our recognition that we are all connected and that we must all prosper without it being at the expense of another’s wellbeing.
Gratitude and Confidence: Antidotes to the Vulnerability of Dependence.
Money and possessions have become the promise of security, and not just financial security.
Many women hold the hope of having a partner who will take care of finances. There is nothing wrong with this arrangement but all too often it becomes an invitation for a woman to abdicate financial involvement, giving up both her responsibility for staying informed and consequently the self-confidence derived from seeing herself as capable. There is no security without confidence.
What do you need to do, learn, or become to gain confidence in yourself? Now is the time to take steps in that direction. There are no shortcuts to confidence but the road requires nothing more than a series of small steps, taken one at a time, away from dependence and toward confidence.
Women can also be lured into a second type of dependence: shopping as a “fix” for loneliness, emptiness, and insecurity. We are just beginning to address the deficits of being dependent on a consumption driven economy. Consumption may have been good for job creation but it’s bad for our human development and our planet because we have fed a beast always hungry for “more” and “better”.
True satisfaction can only come from our hearts filling with gratitude for life, for the love of family and friends, for nature, and for this wondrous capacity itself--to actually know, taste, and cultivate gratitude.
We can learn from the wisdom poetry of Mary Oliver:
Every morning I want to kneel down on the golden
cloth of the sand and say
some kind of musical thanks for
the world that is happening again—and again
(Thirst by Mary Oliver)
Peace: The Answer to Insecurity.
How many activities do we undertake without recognizing or questioning our real motivation? Unfortunately, too many of our actions are attempts to resolve our basic fears--of death, pain, loss, or aloneness. Our reptilian brain’s drive to survive gets disguised in a generalized sense of worry anxiety, mistaking quality of life issues as equal to survival issues.
The loss of a loved one, the pain of tragic circumstances, or the suffering in loss of health can awaken us to the deep insecurity that always accompanies us. We’re startled into taking a full accounting of our most vulnerable reflection. These are the moments when we might see most clearly, might recognize more fully, that we could be spending our whole lives never living from the place of inner peace, being driven by this incessant part of our brain--until only death can make us rest in peace.
If, in these moments of awakening or when our anxiety is running us, we turn fully toward the emptiness, aloneness, and depth of inadequacy, we can encounter what we have most longed for: the stillness that brings peace. What a paradox.
Use this time of chaos and change, insecurity and fear to find a friend/mentor to shape and guide your journey toward peace. Poetry, therapy, music, guided imagery, meditation, prayer, and nature are some of the available paths toward peace.
The path to peace is not an accidental journey. It’s a choice we must make, navigating around the lens of our reptilian brain that sees everything as a quest for survival. We are humans--we have a choice.
Have you stepped onto a path toward peace? What paths are most meaningful to you?
Find your path and lead the way toward this global change in direction.